If you have suffered from drug addiction, you are totally not alone. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 24.6 million Americans were current drug users in 2013 and the numbers only continue to rise each year that passes. Despite it being so common, addiction is still a concept that is not widely understood.
How many of you have tried time and again to explain your addiction (or just addiction in general) to your family, friends, or coworkers only to get a blank response?
Addiction is complicated – there is no denying that. When it comes to explaining addiction to those who haven’t experienced it first-hand, the information that is so widely available can just add more confusion to the mix. Surely your friends and family mean well, they may just be a little misinformed. If you do want to try and explain the disease of addiction to your loved ones, here are some helpful tips on how to explain it in a way that they will understand.
Addiction is a disease, not a choice
Framing addiction as a disease (which science has proven that is exactly what it is) can be a great place to start and can answer the question, “Why can’t you just stop?” Many people still look at addiction as nothing more than a lack of willpower. The fact is, people don’t choose addiction. Many things contribute to the “why’s” of addiction such as genetics, environment, as well as neurological factors play huge roles. You can explain simply that, while someone may choose to try drugs or alcohol, they don’t necessarily choose to become an addict.
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There is no cure for addiction
Addiction is a chronic disease. Like diabetes, arthritis and heart disease, it can be successfully managed, but it can’t be cured. Recovery is a lifelong process, and relapse is a common part of addiction recovery. If you experience a relapse, it’s important to address the issue right away so you can get back on the path to recovery. A relapse isn’t a failure; it’s a learning experience.
Addiction support is necessary – and they may need to help out with that
You may have heard the saying, addiction is a family disease. David Dequa, the program director for The Discovery House, explains.
“Addiction does not just affect the addict. Alcoholism/addiction is a family disease. When one member of the family struggles with a drug or alcohol addiction, everyone suffers. Family members blame themselves; they feel shame, guilt, and remorse as they attempt to cover up the family condition.”
Explain to your family how family members can help by shedding the guilt and shame associated with addiction and learning to live their own lives. Once they stop cleaning up, both literally and figuratively, for the addict, they free themselves from resentment and frustration. There are many benefits of family therapy in drug abuse treatment, in fact, family involvement can be instrumental in reaching long-term recovery for many addicts.
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Additional Drug Addiction Support Resources
Before you can even begin to hope that you can explain the complexities of addiction to your friends and family, it’s important that you understand the disease yourself. There are a ton of helpful resources that you can use to support (or even replace) your explanation.
1. What To Do If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem With Drugs (source: National Institute of Drug Abuse)
2. Understanding Drug Use and Addiction (source: NIDA)
3. Understanding Addiction (source: NCADD)
4. Why Are Drugs So Hard To Quit? (source: NIDA)